By Writing Excuses | April 22, 2012 - 10:30 pm - Posted in Alternate History, Education, Research, Season 7

Larry Correia joins Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard in front of a live audience at LTUE on Utah Valley University campus. Larry knows guns inside and out, and talks to us about the mistakes that writers make when putting firearms into their stories.

Most of this is simple stuff, or at least it’s simple to fix, but that doesn’t change the fact that we get it wrong all the time. Have a listen, follow Larry’s advice, and get your guns right.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Spellbound: Book II of the Grimnoir Chronicles, by Larry Corriea, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Writing Prompt: Give us a character who, after reading one Larry Correia novel, goes out and procures a grenade launcher.

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By Writing Excuses | August 5, 2012 - 8:02 pm - Posted in Research, Sci-fi, Season 7, Setting, World Building

Eric James Stone, Nebula winner and “graduate” of NASA’s Launchpad workshop, joins us to talk about astronomy in our world-building.

We talk about tides, habitable zones, planetary orbits and axial tilts, stellar life-cycles, and other fun factors for authors to take into account. But obviously we can’t teach you everything you need to know about astronomy in 15 minutes, so we wrap with some handy resources for you to begin your continuing education:

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Helliconia Spring by Brian Aldiss, narrated by Christopher Slade

Writing Prompt: Your colonists are going to a world whose axial tilt is different from Earth's. How are the seasons different?

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By Writing Excuses | February 10, 2013 - 7:08 pm - Posted in Characters, Outlining, Plot, Research, Season 8

Retellings are pretty popular right now. Game of Thrones is a retelling the War of the Roses. The Thirteenth Warrior is a retelling of Beowulf, and The Lion King is a retelling of Hamlet. Why do we write these? What do we like about them?

Familiar stories let us explore things in new ways, both because we know what’s coming, and because we don’t need to be brought up to speed on the story.

The line between retelling and adaptation is a blurry one, though. For writers, a good approach, especially early on, is to grab a great story, peel everything away to the plot and key characters, and start writing something new.

On This Date Five Years Ago: the very first episode of Writing Excuses appeared online. 260 weekly episodes later, here we are.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, narrated by Rebecca Soler

Writing Prompt: Do a retelling of a Bible story in a science fiction space setting.

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By Writing Excuses | March 17, 2013 - 8:55 pm - Posted in Characters, Guest, Research, Season 8

Robison Wells joins us again, this time to help us with a discussion of writing characters with abnormal psychology. What are our resources for describing these characters in compelling, believable ways? What are the tricks, the pitfalls, and the landmines.

Brandon frames the discussion with some terms from his abnormal psych class, but let’s lay down a caveat right now: none of us are experts in abnormal psych. We have done lots of research in lots of different fields, we all love learning things, but we’re not doctors.

And that’s where you need to start — love learning, and research this heavily. This is an exercise in “writing the other.” Rob helps us with this research by describing what’s going on with his panic disorder, giving us helpful insight into the sorts of details we’ll need to make any mentally ill character believable.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman, who also narrates.

Writing Prompt: Take Rob's explanation of what it feels like to be him, and write a character from that POV.

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By Writing Excuses | November 17, 2013 - 4:53 pm - Posted in Career, Conventions, Editing, Guest, Live, Research, Season 8, Submitting

Aeryn Rudel, publications manager (it’s like the editor-in-chief) of Privateer Press‘s Skull Island X imprint, joins us to talk about editing. Obligatory disclaimer — Aeryn is Howard’s boss when Howard writes things like “Extraordinary Zoology.”

Aeryn begins by explaining to us what it is that he’s looking for in works, in the authors with whom he works, and how writers might prepare themselves for this kind of work, but his real job here on the ‘cast is to talk to us about the role of the editor. Much of that role deals with continuity of to the setting and the tone of the piece, but there’s plenty more.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Blade Itself: The First Law: Book One by Joe Abercrombie, narrated by Steven Pacey

Writing Prompt: Hell's copyeditor.

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Joel Shepherd joined Brandon, Mary, and Howard before a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about writing hard science fiction where the science in question is social science. He’s studied international relations, interned on Capitol Hill, and is working a PhD in the field. His books reflect this background.

If hard science fiction is an exploration of what is technically, physically possible given a set of circumstances, hard social science fiction is no different. Further than that, however, good research in the social sciences will allow an author to build complex and realistic plots, stories in which character motivations go much further than picking a side.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Crossover: Cassandra Kresnov Book 1, by Joel Sheperd, narrated by Dina Pearlman

Writing Prompt: Pick two people on the same side of a conflict, but give them completely different motivations for fighting on that side.

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By Writing Excuses | January 26, 2014 - 7:47 pm - Posted in Research, Sci-fi, Season 9

Nancy Fulda, herself a lettered student of artificial intelligence, joins us to talk about writing artificial intelligence believably. We fire questions at her so that you don’t have to!

We talk about what’s current, what’s coming, and what it is that we’re all expecting. We also cover some of the things that writers get wrong (at least insofar as they knock the cognoscenti out of the story.)

Liner Notes: Here’s the article Howard mentioned, “Evolving a Conscious Machine,” from the June 1998 Discover. He got the details almost 100% wrong, but the gist of it was still there.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge, narrated by Eric Conger (note: Howard got this wrong -- no apostrophe at all! And yes, a lantern got hung upon that particular missing bit of punctuation.)

Writing Prompt: Go to the Internet and look up Bayesian learning, neural networks, and genetic algorithms. Yes, it's more of a reading prompt.

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What are those things you already know, but which you might not be using in your writing? How do you identify those things and put them to work for you? Mette Ivie Harrison joins us for a discussion of how you might “hijack” (okay, “repurpose”) the knowledge you already have in order to make you a better writer. We hear a lot about the 10,000 hours of practice required to gain expertise in a given domain. It’s possible that you’ve already spent some of those 10,000 hours in activities that you didn’t realize were related.

Mette leads with her love of history. Mary directs us a bit with a metaphor from Jim Henson. Brandon talks about what is, by any other name, fanfic, and Howard talks about his degree in music composition. We also talk about how we leverage the knowledge we’re acquiring in other activities to flesh out the things we’re writing — in effect, letting that stuff serve as research without it being part of the actual research we do.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dangerous Women, by George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois and several others (including Brandon Sanderson), narrated by a long A-list of voices.

Writing Prompt: Look at your own life. Take some skill, activity, or piece of esoteric knowledge that seems completely unrelated to your writing, and then incorporate it in the next thing that you write.

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By Writing Excuses | March 2, 2014 - 6:37 pm - Posted in Guest, Research, Sci-fi, Season 9

Nancy Fulda is back this week to talk with us about the truth, and what do to when it’s stranger than fiction. Sometimes real people’s names are just too cool, and if you were to put them in a book nobody would believe it. Sometimes actual, historical events are so ridiculous there’s no way you can get away with putting them in a story that you expect people to take seriously. And sometimes real science is just not going to be believed by your readers.

So how do you get away with using these things, with writing your stories in true places? Sometimes all it takes is the hanging of the right lantern, but in many cases you must go to great lengths to re-educate the reader without breaking the fourth wall or otherwise knocking them out of the story.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Chimes at Midnight: An October Daye Novel, by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Run your character through a double-funnel extruder and see what's at the end.

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By Writing Excuses | June 29, 2014 - 7:47 pm - Posted in Outlining, Research, Season 9, Site News, Voice, World Building

What’s pre-writing? Well, it’s a little bit like “pre-cooking,” in which something is cooked prior to being put in the final recipe, but in food terms it might also be like “cleaning the kitchen” or “grocery shopping.” Outlining is one kind of pre-writing, but so is the creation of that 5,000-word prologue you decide not to keep, but which informed the whole rest of your story.

We talk about the different things that each of us do prior to actually laying down lines of prose, and how our processes differ between projects, genres, and mediums.

Special Announcement: The first ever Writing Excuses anthology, SHADOWS BENEATH, is available now. This anthology features stories brainstormed and critiqued here on the podcast, and includes draft versions, related episode transcripts, and authorial commentaries as well. Let Brandon tell you more about it!

Our critiquing episodes will begin airing next week, so if you want to read ahead, now’s the time to pick up SHADOWS BENEATH. Oh, and if you order the hardcover, you get the ebook free of charge!

SHADOWS BENEATH launches this weekend at Westercon 67, where Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard are Guests of Honor alongside Cory Doctorow, Christopher Garcia, William Stout, and Bradley Voytek.

Loving That Cover Art? Us too! It’s the work of Julie Dillon, who is on the 2014 Hugo ballot for Best Artist. You can admire (and comment upon!) the unobstructed original here in her DeviantArt gallery.

Dave Farland’s Writing Workshops sponsored us for this episode! Both Brandon and Dan have studied under Dave, and we’re all happy to wholeheartedly recommend his workshops to you. If you can’t fly to his place, well, visit MyStoryDoctor.com and take the online course. The coupon code for your Writing Excuses discount is EXCUSES, but don’t think that means you actually HAVE any of those…

Writing Prompt: Sapient smells. Odors that think. Scents with their own hopes, dreams, and passions. Go.